12 Ways Entertainment Venues Can Innovate as Customers Return Post-Pandemic

As people slowly gather together again, customers will expect new experiences from venues. 

Entertainment venues were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and as restrictions lift and venues start opening up again, business owners and patrons alike are understandably excited to get back to a more “normal” routine. But after everything that’s happened, will customers want more of the same or will they expect a few changes?

As each business owner makes this determination for themselves, there are a few ways they can adapt or innovate to freshen up their old model and give customers something even more exciting to look forward to. Below, 12 leaders from Rolling Stone Culture Council share some of these strategies and explain why they’re good ways to find new success in the coming years.

Share Your History

Many of us took our local venues for granted, never imagining they could be taken away. As these gathering spots reopen, there is a greater appetite to learn more about these venues.  What is the history? The cultural folklore? Let the walls talk and share the story, while making patrons feel they are part of the next chapter. –Allan Fair, Meaning

Invest in Virtual Reality Experiences

Because people have the ability to rent movies and use streaming services, the movie theater experience, in my opinion, has slowly been fading even prior to the pandemic. Many people used their stimulus checks to buy larger TVs to enjoy their time stuck in the house. The movie theaters will need to invest more in virtual reality capabilities that the average person cannot yet afford in-home in order to compete. – Tony M Fountain, Now Entertainment

Offer Premium, VIP-Like Service

Elevate the experience. It’s my belief that, coming out of Covid, people want to feel special. If venues and promoters can offer a premium or VIP-like experience, it will have a positive impact and create strong affinity. This can be as simple as contactless table service, providing branded masks or merch to attendees or partnering with another local venue or restaurant for post-event activities. – Harrison Wise, Wise Collective Inc.

Incorporate Live Feeds

Incorporating live feeds should not only be offered, but may be expected. This is a great opportunity to increase revenue by broadcasting live shows behind paywalls. In addition, wedding venues should offer a live broadcast option as part of their packages for friends and family who cannot make it in person. – Matt Campbell, My Wedding Songs

Focus on Joy and Connection

Bringing people together post-pandemic needs to be about joy and connectivity. How can we connect people to our brands and to each other? How can we lift emotions by bringing people out of themselves and into new worlds with immersive experiences, visual experiences or both? This isn’t about selfie stations. The smart thing is to craft experiences that connect us with our values and higher selves. – Lynn Rosenthal, Periscape

Gamify the Experience

Gamify the experience with a smaller, more intimate group to create a sense of community and playful competition with those in the venue or live entertainment goers versus online viewers. Now, the experience will be different, but change is always a good opportunity to better the traditional experience. – Adam Rumanek, Aux Mode Inc.

Book the Space for Virtual Events Too

Offer the space for more creative purposes — not only for regular shows, but as creative spaces for when artists want to do something a little more high value that they can put out as digital content. You’ll also be able to give overflow or virtual access to smaller and more intimate shows when they sell out, helping artists invite more people “in” to the venue who can’t actually be there. – Tommy Stalknecht, Single Music

Develop a Membership Plan

I would suggest that they incentivize the booking agents and artists and then develop a venue membership plan of sorts for fans. This way, if there is something of interest going on, the members don’t need to be concerned about cost at that time. The art has to be there though. – Michael Polk, Billboardology.com

Take Advantage of Tech

I believe we are undergoing a bit of a renaissance where we are coming out of this crisis with industry and technology seamlessly blending and with greater adoption from users. For example, mobile ordering from the bar at a baseball game makes it a lot easier to get your drink without interfering too much with your ballpark experience. – Ashley Deese, ashleydeese.com

Engage the Passion of Your Fans

As a venue operator in Manhattan, we are all too familiar with this one. After being shut down for nearly 15 months, we recently finished our first month back in business. The message from our community? “We are here to support you.” So, approach the problem as a community and look for the solutions within your community too. Engage with them on-site and online to bring out the passion patrons and staff share. – Mehmet Dede, Drom NYC

Promote Safety and Cleanliness

The death of theaters and movie attendance has been predicted for many years and it never happens. People enjoy gathering for a shared experience, whether it is a concert, show or movie. People are nervous about the initial gathering though. What venue owners need to do now is create the feeling that the theater is a safe, clean environment. – Domenic Rom, Goldcrest

Look to Collaborate

Venues will always be relevant no matter the innovation; we need to be together and share experiences. To innovate the experience, I think it’s important to consider collaborations — food with music, art with food and music, interactive performances, viewer interactions and basically sharing the stage! Our feelings are different now and so should be the feeling of the experience. We must curate the night! – Ricardo Roig, Roig Collection

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

12 Ways Entertainment Venues Can Innovate as Customers Return Post-Pandemic
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